Colonial Skimmer Serial Number One, the prototype of the Lake Amphibian fleet, recently had its first flight after a complete restoration at Walter J. Kolodza Airport (GBR) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
John Staber of Old Chatham, N.Y., a flight instructor and pilot of Lake Amphibian aircraft since 1964, has for the past 11 years been painstakingly restoring Number One, first at his home in Old Chatham and for the past six months in the Great Barrington Airport’s well-equipped shop/hangar.
Skimmer Number One was first flown in 1948 on Long Island. She was test flown until 1956. She flew sporadically until 1989 when she was damaged in a wind-storm and taken apart. Meanwhile the Colonial Aircraft Corp. was developing the future fleet in Sanford, Maine. After Colonial Skimmer models C-1 and C-2 were up and flying, the next phases of the Lake Amphibians came along – the LA–4, the Buccaneer, the EP, and finally the Renegade. In 1999, after owning many versions of this wonderful “flying boat,” Staber learned that an early Skimmer was in pieces near Cleveland, Ohio. As the historian of the fleet he knew that it was either Number Five or Number One. He went to take a look, purchased the sad collection of parts, trailered it home to Columbia County, N.Y., and, after much sorting of miscellaneous parts, found the data plate. To his delight, it was Serial Number One.
There then followed years of reconstruction, many ups and downs, helping hands from Lake owners and, after getting her together, painting her – all in his garage. Last November she was trailered to Great Barrington, where Staber did the finishing work. On May 22 he took her up for a test flight and all that long hard work paid off, he said. “She flew like a dream,” he said.
The unofficial “historian” of the fleet, Staber has produced a CD, “A History of the Lake Amphibian 1946 to 2006,” that contains almost everything ever printed about them (1,600 scans), plus biographies, photos, and editorial comment. For more information: 518-794-9091 or